Crohn's Disease Glossary
Understanding Crohn's disease and how it affects you is essential to making the
most of your treatment. Here are some terms that relate to Crohn's disease that
you may have read or heard your doctor use that will enhance your understanding
of your condition and your treatment.
When the abdomen is enlarged or swollen due to internal pressure in the intestines.
Pain in the belly (the abdomen). Abdominal pain can come from conditions affecting
a variety of organs. In Crohn's disease, the organs causing pain are usually the
An abscess, or collection of pus, can form in the intestinal wall caused by infection
from bacteria, sometimes as a result of a fistula.
A drug that is used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms.
Antibiotics such as metronidazole and ciprofloxacin are sometimes prescribed to
treat abscesses and fistulas. Other antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bacterial
overgrowth in the intestine caused by obstruction or abscesses.
Refers to over-the-counter medications like Imodium® and Pepto-Bismol® that help
Drugs used to control inflammation. In Crohn's disease, these may include sulfasalazine
or other medications containing mesalamine (5-ASA agents), and corticosteroids.
Biologics are the most recently developed medications for the treatment of moderate
to severe Crohn's disease. Biologic drugs are engineered to target a specific inflammatory
protein or enzyme in the body.
Another name for the intestine. The small bowel and the large bowel are the small
intestine and large intestine, respectively.
Colectomy (and Proctocolectomy)
Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the entire colon (colectomy). The end of the
small intestine (the ileum) is then joined to the rectum.
In a proctocolectomy, both the colon and rectum is removed. An ileostomy must then
be performed to bring the end of the small intestine (ileum) through a hole (stoma)
in the abdominal wall, allowing drainage of intestinal waste out of the body.
The large intestine; serves to remove water from digested food and moves the remaining
solid waste (stool) to the rectum.
Crohn's disease is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes inflammation in the
gastrointestinal (digestive) tract.
Fissures are tears or cracks in the lining of the anus which may be superficial
or deep. Unlike fistulas, fissures are only in the area of the anus.
Sometimes deep ulcers in the intestine can turn into tracts—called fistulas—that
connect different parts of the intestine. Fistulas can also tunnel into surrounding
tissues such as the bladder, vagina, or skin, and often become infected.
Gastrointestinal (GI) tract
The organs that extend from the mouth to the anus that digest food: mouth, esophagus,
stomach, duodenum, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum and anus. Also
referred to as the alimentary canal and digestive tract.
The lowest part of the small intestine, located beyond the duodenum and jejunum,
just before the large intestine (the colon).
Medications that block the body's immune response, which can cause inflammation.
Types of immunosuppressants that may be used to treat Crohn's include azathioprine,
6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate, and cyclosporine.
A reaction by the body to infection, irritation or other injury that includes swelling
and pain; a type of immune response.
The most common complication of Crohn's disease is obstruction of the intestine
because of swelling and the formation of scar tissue. The result is thickening of
the bowel wall and a significantly narrowed intestinal passage.
The last 6 to 8 inches of the large intestine. The rectum stores solid waste until
it leaves the body through the anus.
If a constricted area of the intestine, or stricture, is long, or there are multiple
strictures close to one another, it may be necessary to remove the affected section
of the intestine. The two ends of healthy intestine are then joined together.
The part of the digestive tract that extends from the stomach to the large intestine.
A procedure to widen a constricted area of the small intestine without removing
any portion of it.
Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) is a protein in the body. Excess levels of this protein
cause inflammation in certain areas of the body. In Crohn's disease the affected
area is the gastrointestinal tract.